After dinner in Malibu on Sunday (same place I met John McEnroe), I jumped in my car and headed back home to Scottsdale. I arrived having forgotten/lost the remote to open the gate (to my community) and for some reason, the key to my front door was missing (lost over the bye week). Fortunately, I was able sneak past the gate by tailgating another resident (impenetrable security!) and located a key. My dad wouldn't have appreciated me knocking on his door at 3 a.m. He's kinda old.
The following night, some buddies and I were watching the Fiesta Bowl at a local watering hole. With two minutes left on the clock, suddenly a football game broke out. With Texas behind, their friendly "Heisman hopeful" quarterback got back on the field. I recognized the situation an announced to the table, "Texas will win and McCoy will be a top ten draft pick."
A barrage of jokes ensued -- from how many dollars-per-throw McCoy was making to which QB bust he most resembled. After my predicted conclusion was realized, my friend said to the TV, "Congratulations, now you're Tim Couch!" Another friend threw out "Akili Smith!" Then the name of the master of all QB busts rang out, "RYAN LEAF!" We all laughed, but I defended them. It's not their fault they got drafted so high.
In all seriousness, I wish Colt McCoy the best. Hell, maybe he'll end up on the 49ers? But it did get me thinking about some of the problems with the draft.
First, no draft pick can single handedly save a franchise. Organizations and fans expect too much from young players. Young players do not save franchises, franchises save young players.
For example, Terrell Suggs, a great player and friend (and fellow Arizona State alumni), was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens. During his rookie year, T. Sizzle's primary responsibility was rushing the passer on third downs. As he improved, under the tutelage of a great defense (coaches and players), he took on more responsibility. Now he's a Pro Bowler and considered one of the best in the NFL. Here is the kicker: had he been drafted by the Arizona Cardinals instead of the Ravens, he would have been Andre Wadsworth. Great college player, big, strong, fast, all the potential in the world., but just did not work out. I have all the respect in the world for Andre Wadsworth?.it's not his fault he got drafted by the Cardinals in the '90s.
Another problem with the draft is that having a high pick is a liability for the teams. The NFL draft should have a cap and all contracts should expire in three years. For example, the number one overall pick should get at most a three year $12 million contract. After that time he would be a restricted free agent and either get paid or "get out of the league."
One more thing, to avoid overpaying free agents and veteran players, many of whom lose their ability and/or interest in playing football (veteran players are safer picks than the draft but still risky). The NFL needs to significantly increase minimum salaries.
Let's start with the notion that each player contributes to the team (both helping the team win and generating revenue). Some contribute more than others. The top eight to ten guys on each team should make significantly more that the rest of the players. But how much more? If football really is the ultimate team game, can one player's contract be worth $100 million when his teammates is worth only $300,000?
NFL owners should jump at the opportunity to increase minimum salaries because that would reduce the risk of signing high priced free agents, because there would be less money under the cap to pay to any one individual player.
In an ideal "fantasy world," where fair was the law of the land, each player would contribute equally and would receive an equal percentage of the salary cap ($116,000,000 / 53 players = $2,188,679.25). But in the "real world" life is not fair, teams do not spent the full available amount, and as we established earlier, not all players contribute equally.
So what should we base the minimum salaries on? At the very least, every team must pay out a certain amount in player salaries (the "Minimum Total Salary" which was $98.8 million in 2008). If we take 20% off the top to use as an additional compensation pool for key players (in addition to the remaining cap space should the team choose to use it), we have about $79 million for base salaries ("the Base Salary Pool").
The average length of an NFL playing career is 3.5 years; by the eighth year, a player is an established veteran. Under my proposal, all players who play for eight years or more would earn a minimum salary equal to 1/53 of the Base Salary Pool ($79,000,000 / 53 = $1491,320.75). Reduce the salary by $100,000 for each year less than eight, and rookies would make $791,320.75.
That way if a player plays for the average length of time (3.5 years) and makes a minimum salary, instead of making $1,370,000 he would make $3,219,623.63.
With $116 million dollar cap, signing bonuses would still be tens of millions of dollars for the highest priced players, but the rest of the players would make significantly more money. Both the players and the NFL should work to increase minimum salaries to ensure a bright future for the NFL owners, players, and fans.
Now that I've solved that problem, I need to find a dog walker in Scottsdale for my dog... I'm meeting my brother for lunch tomorrow, and if I don't go see my mom by the end of the week then she'll bring out the wooden spoon again (ouch).
Here is a picture of my version of unpacking... I guess I still have some "putting away" to do!